DC DUI Arraignment

The likely first step after you have been charged with driving under the influence will be an arraignment, where you and your DC DUI lawyer will appear before a judge and be presented with the charges against you. For all of the information you need to know about DUI arraignments, what will happen, and what is unique about DUI arraignments in DC, a DC DUI lawyer will be able to help.

DUI Arraignments

An arraignment is a court hearing where the court informs a defendant of what they are charged with, so that their lawyer can enter a plea of not guilty on the case and the defendant can be made aware of what the charges are. At an arraignment, the judge is going to make a decision as to what release conditions the defendant will be on during the pendency of the case. Typically on a misdemeanor charge, the defendant would be released and not held in custody, but there are exceptions for that.

For example, if the defendant is already on probation, already has a pending case, is on parole, or there is a history of prior convictions, all of these things can be factors that a judge can take into account for making that decision. As a result, it is critical to have a DC DUI arraignment attorney to make an effective argument to ensure that the release conditions are as lenient as possible. To avoid the potential of being held in custody or being placed on house arrest or other types of supervision, someone wants to make sure that they have someone arguing strongly for their best interests.

Changing Conditions

Once the release conditions are set at the arraignment. It can be difficult to get those conditions changed because once the case progresses from the arraignment stage, the judge in further hearings will want to see some sort of changed circumstances to justify modifying what the initial judge had set as the release conditions. It can be critical to make sure their best arguments are formulated and presented at the arraignment.

Arraignment Procedure

An arraignment is the first hearing that begins a criminal case. It is where the defendant must appear, the government will have filed its charges, and the clerk of the court will officially state on the record what charges are being brought against the defendant by the government.  Additionally, the court will set release conditions and the next court date for the hearing. In many cases, initial discovery in the form of police reports and related documents will be given by the government to the defense.

A person needs to appear at the arraignment because procedures in DC say that a person always needs to be informed in person of the charges they are facing. Lawyers cannot appear for an arraignment on the behalf of their client, and a person cannot appear by phone or by video. According to DC criminal rules, a person must hear the charges against them, so that they can be made fully aware of what they are facing and can appear with a lawyer to speak on their behalf.

Time Between Arrest and Arraignment

When a person is first arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence, they are typically given a citation to appear for their arraignment hearing three to four weeks later. Between the arrest and their arraignment, police officers involved in the arrest are required to write up reports and provide their evidence to the prosecutors in DC so that prosecutors can make a decision as to whether to file charges and if so, what charges to file. The prosecutors at the DC Attorney General’s office will look at the documentation and evidence provided to them by the police during that three-week gap between the arrest and the arraignment and will make a charging decision.

The charging decision will usually be made about one to two days prior to the arraignment hearing, so when a person who has been arrested arrives for their arraignment they can be notified at the arraignment of their charges. Also, they can appear with a lawyer who can speak on their behalf to enter a not guilty plea.

Bail Proceedings

In DC, there is no system of bail or bond for pre-trial release. No person is ever required to pay money or put up bail in exchange for being released while their case is pending. DC has a pretrial release supervision system whereby, for the most part, everyone facing a misdemeanor case involving a DUI would be given a citation to appear for their arraignment hearing. Between their arrest and their arraignment, they are released from the police station on their personal promise to appear at the arraignment date.

When an individual appears at the arraignment, instead of imposing any bail or bond, the judge would impose conditions that a defendant has to comply with in exchange for being released while their case is pending. Those conditions could include, for example, a requirement to undergo an alcohol assessment and possibly alcohol treatment through the DC Court Pretrial Services Agency. The alcohol assessment and treatment may not be considered a punishment or a determination of guilt in the DUI case, it is simply a condition that a person has to comply with while on release in their case.

Judges can also set other conditions of release, such as curfews or requirements that prohibit driving between certain time periods. In most first offense DUI cases, however, the most common condition of release is a requirement that a person receives an alcohol assessment and alcohol treatment if deemed appropriate by the DC Pretrial Services Agency. In a second or subsequent DUI offense or in a DUI that might have more severe allegations, such as an accident or an injury, a judge might impose stricter or more severe conditions of release. However, in DC those conditions would not involve a requirement to pay money in exchange for being released.

Role of a Lawyer

It is always a good idea to have an attorney present at every stage of the process if you are facing a DUI charge. In the event that a person has not hired a lawyer by their arraignment date, every defendant will be appointed a lawyer for the purposes of assisting them at their arraignment. Every hearing, even an administrative hearing like an arraignment in DC has complications and having a lawyer assist you can be helpful. A lawyer can speak on your behalf so that as the defendant, you will not have to say anything for yourself.

A lawyer can also make a request for discovery and for any evidence the prosecutor might have, so that they can review the evidence, discuss it with their client, and advise them on the next steps and the best way to move forward. An attorney would also be able to help a client understand what happens during an arraignment and what a defendant might want to do between their arrest and their arraignment hearing. That way, a person facing a DUI charge can be in the best possible position early on to try to get a good outcome to their case at a later time.